Defunct Speedway Tracks

Rayleigh Speedway
Rayleigh has had 2 homes, the first track was situated very close to the second. The team was better known at Rayleigh Weir Stadium, Southend, Arterial Rd., Rayleigh, Essex 1948-1973. If anyone has items from the other track please email me
Rayleigh Badges
Dave Jones says: Rayleigh speedway has had 2 tracks but only one stadium. the original track shape was a copy of the Wembley track. I do not know what year it was but the track was made smaller to accommodate greyhound racing at the stadium.
Stephen Aylen says: Sir, Found your Rayleigh rockets site.  The story I have is that the speedway team were originally going to be set up on a dog track behind the woodcutters pub in Leigh. Several test rides were carried out and a race evening. For some reason they decided on the Weir Stadium site instead. Can you put any meat on the bones of this story?
John Skinner says: Well Stephen, your comment is now on this site and I have asked Terry Stone to cast around and see if he can come up with the answer.  The question is open to anyone to answer John
Dave Jones says: Hi John,  In answer to the question by Stephen Aylen :- I am not too sure of the dates, but the test rides were carried out at Southend greyhound stadium. this stadium was situated at Stock road Southend. Sadly the stadium's fate was the same as the Rayleigh weir stadium. It was demolished to make way for shops in the late 70's. There has always been houses situated behind the woodcutters pub in Leigh. Cheers    Dave
Terry Stone has replied to me. Terry says: Hello John, In answer to the question regarding the other Rayleigh track. 2 years ago Jim Henry contacted me regarding this same question.
Terry goes on to say: I started my investigation at the Woodcutters Pub, Leigh -on-Sea near to the Belfairs Golf Club which is a large open area. Talking with local people I was informed that the land behind the pub belonged to gypsies or travellers. There had been dog racing possibly pre war 1939. This would have been a flapping track.
The speedway racing would have been grass track. Researching this further Arthur Pilgrim had ridden there.
Other riders would have ridden at the track under assumed names. It would be great if we could find a programme from this era. Regarding the paper cutting at Great Wheatleys Farm on the Defunct Speedway Site this is yet another mystery.
Still with Terry: Perhaps Grass Track took place at this farm. Travelling along the A127 towards London on the right hand side 1 mile before the Laindon roundabout by the now defunct pub The Fortune of War lies another track mystery. The Grand Central Speedway Track was located here which had grass straights and cinder bends. Active between 1938-1939. Meetings were ran by a club from Southend-on-Sea. I do have a programme from one of these meetings. Riders also rode under assumed names such as the following Albie Duck and Donald Duck.
Hope this information is helpful and perhaps more can be added to these stories.
Keep the wheels turning and the plugs sparking.#
Terry Stone        
The Mr Rocket 1970.
John Skinner says: Confused? yes! I am a bit but maybe others can clarify? If so please email me John
Jean Trowell says: Hello John, I remember going to Raleigh speedway as a child with all my family. Probably around 1949 until 1953 when we all left to live in New Zealand. My grandmother owned a cafe on the Eastern Avenue. They got to know a lot of the riders who used to call into the cafe. I remember when Les McGillvray had a bad accident and my grandmother bought him a new bike. After the speedway we all used to go to Mr and Mrs Macs house (Les’s mum and dad) we kids used to fall asleep while my family had cups of tea and probably a few drinks waiting for Les to come home. He had two brothers Jim and Sandy.

I remember some of the riders, Jack Unstead, Maury Dunn, Julie Benson, Gerald Jackson.
I remember once through the gates racing to get the best seats before the races. When we had a birthday we got a ride around the track, usually with Les as he was our favourite. After moving to New Zealand my parents made contact with Maury Dunn and saw him often. Unfortunately he was killed in a boating accident.
I still have the Raleigh Rockets badge with all the bars of the years.

We also used to go to other speedway tracks, not sure if it was because the rockets were racing there, but probably was. The Hammers, Swindon are some I can remember. I still have their badges also. My mum knitted us blue and yellow scarves which we wore to the meetings.
They were great days.
I have a photo of Les McGillvray. He is holding my brother and I. When I find it I will send it to you.
Kind Regards
Jean Trowell née Ling.

Train Excursions To Rayleigh
(For Speedway)

Courtesy Peter.Everingham

Just the ticket! Let the train take the strain in 1948.  Rayleigh's first season. No team in 1948 they just ran open meetings

First Team

The first Raleigh team  Percy Brine Vic Gooden Jack Unstead Roy Uden and front Pat Clarke Ron Howes Jim Gregory & Tony Boshoff

Roy Uden

Rayleigh's first season was 1948.  I suspect the picture of rider Roy Uden above sporting a fine moustache would be from 1949 as they didn't have a team until 1949. I am told Roy was ex RAF. He also has the obligatory pudding basin helmet and neckerchief.  Looking at the rocket and remembering that space travel was still 10 years away I can only wonder at how the Rayleigh rocket came about. Were the wartime V1's etc the model for Rayleigh's race jackets or did the designers copy the Dan Dare comic?

Re your Rayleigh Rockets / Rye House Rockets query it came about when Rayleigh finally closed down and moved into Rye House who had previously been on a non-league open licence except for a few years in the S A L in the mid 50s. The Rayleigh Promotion moved into Rye and just retained the same colours.

Programme Covers
Graham Gleave has sent me the above Rayleigh Weir programmes.  The right hand side programme is interesting as it features Midget Car racing.

Courtesy of David Jones



Rayleigh Badges
Michael Browning says:  Hi John, I was looking through your Rayleigh Rockets site and noticed that my badge (shown above with date bars) is different from those shown on your lists! Also Rayleigh was not mentioned on my badge.  I used to go with my parents from the age of 5ish. And kept going (with a few breaks) up to their closure. When they had greyhound racing we always used to stay on for that.  When my parents split up I seem to recollect having to hang around outside the Crown pub while my mum was having a drink with Jack Unstead. Although my memory is a bit hazy on this!


Rayleigh 1951


Left: Ron Howes 1951 Captain retired 1955. Right: Les McGillivray

Film fans may have seen the DVD "Once a Jolly Swagman" which starred Dirk Bogard.  Ron Howes was the stunt man for Dirk, he did all the riding that made Mr Bogard look so good. Ron is also interviewed at the beginning of the DVD


Left: Frank Bettis transferred to Eastbourne 1955 Right: Maurice Dunn Bought by Harringay for £1000.00 in 1952


Left: New Zealander Jules Benson. Right: Vic Gooden


Left: Gerald Jackson Right: Tom O'Connor retired 1954 owing to injury


Jack Unstead he was transferred to Bristol in 1953 for £1500.00 but returned to Rayleigh in 1955 when Bristol closed down.  Jack sadly lost his life after crashing at Ipswich in 1962


1952 Photo supplied by Dave Jones, can you name the team? John

Terry Stone says: 1952 team Rayleigh M .Dunn G. Woodger  J. Unstead  F. Bettis  C. Mugford  L. Mcgillivray  Jim. Mcgillivray Frank Arnald.  G. Jackson  J.Benson  R .Howes Tom. O'Conner, all the best, keep up the good work. see the rockets score.
Eric Withams says: Dear John, Wonderful website I've just discovered it. I've supported the Rockets since 1949, and I'm sure the rider between Frank Bettis and Les McGillivray is Ossie Osborne, not Charlie Mugford, on the 1952 team photo.
John says: I will email Terry Stone and see if he agrees.  I thought Ossie Osborne was a rock singer. 
Terry now agrees with Eric that It's Ossie not Charlie in the team photo. Terry has also asked who the guy in the flat cap is!!!
Reg Fearman says: Sorry to say that Terry is wrong on the man in the raincoat in the 1952 team photo.  it is not Frank Arnold but Butch Williams who raced at Dagenham pre war and was Malcolm Craven's mechanic from 1946 at West ham and an employee of the Atkinsons.  Arnold was the general manager for the Atkinson's and was previously at West Ham
More from Reg Fearman: I meant to say that I agreed that the Rayleigh team photos was in fact Ossie Osborne he was at West Ham and rode in the Hawks team pre war, he was attached to W.H. in 1946. His house backed on to the W.H. workshops. His father had a lorry and coal round and used to deliver coal to our  house -- small world. I'm full of useless information.

1953 Mascot
The mascot photo shown above has been recognised as follows:
Peter Sutton says: " I Have just had a phone call from my brother, he was the mascot in the picture, as he has just found your site. His name is Ron Sutton and he is now 66"  Here's another picture of Ron the mascot with the 1953 team.
1953 Rayleigh Team

Courtesy of Peter Sutton

Terry Stone says:  David Mould  Les McGillivray  Frank Bettiss  Arthur Atkinson  Tom O'Connor  Alby Smith Fred Babcock  Bert Little  Peter Clark Gerry Jackson  "Little Ron Sutton", see above,  Ron Howse  John Applegate M  McDermott Eric  Ebbs.
Eric Ebbs RIP
Paul Brouwers says: Hello, my name is Paul Brouwers and I live in Australia. I thought you might be interested to know that my dear neighbour Eric Ebbs, of the 1953 Raleigh Rockets team passed away on the 19th February 2017. I believe he was 86.
I found your photo of the 1953 team on the Defunct Speedway website a few years ago and surprised Eric by showing it to him. He said he hadn’t seen that photo in years and was stunned that anyone could have found it! he then went on to show me his trophies from his speedway days. He was a true gentleman and will be greatly missed as a friend and neighbour RIP Eric.
Best Regards, Paul Brouwers

Bobby McFarlane Unknown
Bruce Abernathy Charlie Mugford
Courtesy of Nick Short
Unknown Vic Ridgeon



Scans courtesy of Terry Stone



Signature Tunes

Dave W says: Hi John, I have a friend who used to go to Rayleigh Weir Stadium from the late 40's to the late 60's. She is trying to recall the name of the music which was played when the riders came onto the track. If you can help it will really make her day. Any information would be very much appreciated 
Dave Hoggart says: Initially it was Telstar by the Tornados and subsequently those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines
Eric Withams says: In the Arthur & Tippie Atkinson era (1950 - 1955) the meeting began with "The Jumping Bean", during which a boy dressed in page boy uniform (blue & yellow, of course!)  lit a rocket on the centre green. Then to the march "Old Comrades" the track staff paraded out to the centre, countered marched around so that half were at each end of the track ready to do their duties as rakers. When they were in position the National Anthem was played, after which the riders for the first race came out to their bikes out on the track.  I can still picture the whole performance after all these years!
Telstar at the end of the meeting came later, in the 60's.

Rayleigh 1953
1953: Pete Lansdale, Les McGillivray, Alan Smith, Arthur Atkinson, John Fitzpatrick, Jack Unstead, Maurie McDermot, Gerald Jackson (on bike)

Peter Clark
(On Bike) &
Tom O'Connor

Peter Clark (on bike) Tom O'Connor with in the background Sandy MacGillivray, Les's brother


Johnny Fitzpatrick Alan Smith
Both signed from West Ham in 1956

Rayleigh 1960
1960: Pete Lansdale, R Reeves, E Hockaday, Wally Mawdsley, J Leggett, Clive Hitch, Stan Stevens and Alan Smith (on bike)

Portraits 1961
Terry Stone Sandy McGillivray
Terry Stone
Before I go any further with this page I would like to show 2 pictures of Terry who has been kind enough to share his memories and photo images with us.

This is Terry in Rayleigh and Glasgow colours. The Rayleigh picture was taken in 1961 at Wolverhampton.  Terry a Rayleigh stalwart was transferred to Glasgow in 1964 but he returned to Rayleigh later.


Rayleigh 1961

1961 team: Geoff Penniket, Pete Sampson, Harry Edwards, Wally Mawdsley, Terry Stone, R Craighead, Stan Stevens on bike and B Thomas


Rayleigh v Edinburgh 1961

1961 Provincial League action at Rayleigh. Edinburgh's Willie Templeton Leads Reg Reeves with Stan Stevens at the back


Rayleigh 1963
Harry had been in a Japanese POW camp for 4 years during the war and had malnutrition on his release. Perhaps that’s why he looked older than he was; he would be only 40 when this photo was taken in 1963.
Rayleigh v Newcastle
20th July 1963
Courtesy of John Spoor

Rayleigh 1968

Courtesy of Dave Jones


1968: L-R  Len Silver(Promoter), Geoff Maloney, Laurie Etheridge, Mike Gardner, Colin Tucker, Dennis Mannion, Terry Stone, Gordon Cox (Team Manager), On machine Graeme Smith,

Will Terry Forgive Me?
This photo shows the other side of the sport for the riders, hitting the dirt here is a Rayleigh Rider.
Steve Brown says: It seems that the rider who was taking a tumble at Rayleigh in 1968 was Terry Stone.  The picture was in the 1969 Speedway Star Annual.


Roger Wright 1969



Rob Miller's Photographs


Alan Emmett


Bob Young

Dingle Brown

Dingle Brown


Geoff Maloney

3 shots of Geoff Maloney



Hughie Saunders


Rayleigh 1970
1970 and the end of the men in black.  Coloured leathers were selling fast. Left to Right: Charles Mugford, Dingle Brown, Nigel Rackett, Terry Stone, *Ivan Miller, Hugh Saunders, Bob Young, Len Silver, Peter Thorogood and Geoff Maloney on bike
*Dave Jones has sent this picture of Ivan Miller, and he raises doubt about the guy named as Ivan in the team photo shown above.
Dave says: I have attached a picture of Ivan Miller from a Rayleigh program who I am sure rode for the rockets during part of the 1972 season. so I am not sure who the rider named as Ivan Miller is in the team photo. I think it could be a rider named Brian Osborne but I am only taking a guess on that.
Terry Stone says: The rider you had incorrectly named in the above team photo is not Ivan Miller it is Dave Slatford who was a second half rider who rode in the team if we had injuries
Sean Richardson says: Hi there I just wanted to respond to the question.. is that Ivan Miller in the team photo? No it is not, Dave Jones's photo is THE Ivan Miller (with more I worked with Ivan in London UK for many years, in fact we went and collected one of the very first Fireblades from the now defunct Carnells Motorcycles. I had a NEW Cagiva WMX500 desert race bike as a part exchange which for the life of me I could not get a kick start for as this bike was specially built for a failed Dakar attempt. The original kick start was broken on the original owners leg (on the first kick-start)... ouch. apparently a very long stay in hospital. This bike was an animal the seat height was ridiculous... im 6ft tall and my feet were 6 inches off the ground. No-one would attempt to ride it...... except Ivan who used a wall to get on it. I pushed and Ivan bumped started the 500cc two stroke straight into a wheelie right outside the Carnell showroom and carried the wheelie on outa site without a helmet or muffler in a plume of Castrol R smoke. Coming back he slid to a halt on the pavement jumping off and holding the monster upright... It was the most awesome thing I have ever seen on a bike and I was in the industry 11 years. Needless to say the Carnell guys gave me a fortune for it! Ivan is the most modest Guy I have ever met, in fact Ivan worked for me for over 3 months before someone said to me, thats Ivan Miller the racer! WTF! Ivan moved back to Australia and after a few months I wrote to him begging him to come back as I needed him... to my amazement he came back to the UK. I lost contact with Ivan early 2000's. He is 'Steve Mcqueen' cool!
Hope this helps.
Kindest regards Sean (Max) Richardson ex-Motorcycle City Regional Operations Manager, London

Rayleigh 1971

1971 team Peter Thorogood, Tiger Beech, Allen Emmett, Allen Jackson, Peter Claridge, Dave Slatford, Terry Stone, Len Silver, Dingle Brown, Geoff Maloney and Bob Young

Dave Jones Sent me the above picture taken from a 1972 programme.  This seems to prove that the better quality pic above is of 1972 not 1971. 
Terry Stone says: The picture of Rayleigh 1971-72, the picture in the 1972 programme from Rayleigh is a 1971 picture as Allen Jackson did not ride for the rockets in 1972.
Dave Jones says: ok back to the 1972 team photo of the Rayleigh Rockets. This photo was taken at the 1972 press and practise day. Terry was right about Alan Jackson not riding for Rayleigh in 1972 but he was at the press and practise day in 1972. I have attached a photo and program notes from the program for the first meeting of the 1972 season. although Alan was programmed to ride in this meeting he was replaced by Peter Claridge.
Cheers for now

Alan Jackson




Allen Emmett

Pictures courtesy of David Jones

Allen Emmett 1972 and 1973


Rayleigh 1971

Photo Courtesy of Dave Jones

Colour comes to the Rayleigh page! Here we see Terry Stone in glorious Technicolor ugh! This is Rayleigh 1971 what I need now is the full line up, send me an email please John
Terry Stone advises: Dingle Brown. Nigel Rackett. Terry Stone. Bob Young. Hughie Saunders. Geoff Maloney on bike.  other rider? may be Dave Slatford?
Dave Hoggart says: I'm fairly certain the other rider in the picture is Colin Perry a grass track rider who switched to shale in 1970 in second halves at the Weir and was covering for injury in 71.  Stoney or Pete Thorogood should be able to confirm now that I have put a name in the frame.
Kind regards David

Sunderland v Rayleigh
May 1971
SR says: 2 pictures from Sunderland taken May 1971. Left Terry Stone, windswept and interesting, looking for a comb!! the other picture shows Tiger Beech and Dingle Brown in the foreground. In the background is Geoff Maloney with his mechanic. Terry has borrowed a comb - and another mechanic. Both those mechanics were regulars but I can't name them - but someone could.
John says: Thanks SR. I have copied the photo to the name the rider page, let's see if anyone recognises the lads.
Terry Stone has been in touch. He has recognised himself as the "head" at the back between the mechanics and one of the mechanics is Roy Sullivan.

Red Ott 1973

Courtesy P.Everingham


Rayleigh 1973
The End is Nigh!

Courtesy P.Everingham


Courtesy of Dave Jones


Dave Jones says: This may be the last team photo that was ever taken of the Rayleigh Rockets. L/R   Peter Thorogood (Team Manager), Red Ott, Trevor Barnwell, Peter Moore, Peter Cairns, Tiger Beech. Kneeling  Peter Wigley, Robert Lyons (Mascot), Terry Stone. On Machine  Bob Young (Captain). Insert  Brian Foote.


Site Of The Rayleigh Weir Stadium
Dave Jones says: This may be the last ever photo taken at the site of the Weir Stadium. This was taken just where the main gate would have been looking at turn four and the main stand and starting gate.


Tony Avis says:  I have just been reading the Rayleigh Speedway section of your website which mentions tests at Southend Greyhound Stadium. The stadium was situated in Grainger Road not Stock Road.
When Rayleigh was threatened with closure Southend Greyhound Stadium was looked at as an alternative venue and noise tests were carried out as the stadium was in the middle of a residential area. At a guess this would have been about 1972. There was a lot of local opposition to speedway at Southend on noise grounds and complaints that there would be too much traffic on race nights and unfortunately the idea never got any further than a test or two. Southend Stadium held greyhound meetings and had at one time in the 50's been home to Southend United football team. By the mid to late 70's it was no longer viable to run the stadium solely for greyhound racing and following closure it was demolished and became Greyhound Retail Park.
Bearing in mind the extra traffic and noise that the retail park must generate every day maybe the local residents would have been better off with a bit if traffic and noise one day a week from speedway!
Incidentally as a teenager I used to help out at Rayleigh on a Saturday. Once I had to pay adult admission I couldn't afford to pay to get in so I used to cycle from Leigh-on-Sea on Saturday morning and help put up the safety fence panels, pull hoses for watering the track and help with any other jobs. I also became a kind of unofficial helper to Jim, the fuel and oil man for 2 or 3 seasons late 60's /early 70' he often had trouble keeping up with the queue waiting for fuel as it took a long time to pour the Castrol R oil particularly on colder nights when the oil was very thick so I used to serve the oil and often get the mechanics to sign the paperwork while Jim poured the fuel. This meant I got to stay in the pits all meeting and stood at the front with the riders. It was a great way to get a better understanding of what was going on during a race as the riders in the pits were always full of advice for those out on track about going wide or cutting inside so I got to recognise the lines and learnt to recognise the way a rider might build an overtaking move over 2 or 3 corners. I got paid nothing except a fish and chip dinner and my parents could never understand why I didn't get a "proper" Saturday job that paid money but I loved my time at Rayleigh and have fond memories of the place.
I remember we used a lot of sawdust at one particularly wet meeting to try to soak up the water on the track and Pete Thorogood said that it was going to be expensive to get more. I found him a load of sawdust for free from the undertakers next door to the printing firm where my dad worked but we had to bag it up from their woodwork shop so we set off from the Weir stadium in someone’s pick up one Saturday morning and came back with the truck loaded with filled sacks. Pete Thorogood swore us all to secrecy as he reckoned some of the riders would have refused to ride had they known the source of the sawdust they were riding on. Regards Tony Avis
Tony also says:  I have just bought the Rayleigh DVD from Retro Speedway which brought back some memories and have been going through my old programmes which reminded me of another story.
Len Silver was always the showman and wanted a particular effort when we had a special meeting like the internationals.
In 1971 we had a Young England v Young Sweden test match at Rayleigh and everyone made a special effort to make the stadium look it's best.
We had a 8pm start and at about 6.30-7pm Len decided that the safety fence boards looked dirty and needed smartening up so my friend Keith and I were sent out with a big bucket of emulsion to repaint the boards before the meeting got underway.
When we were about half way round the 2nd bend John Louis walked out from the pits to walk the track - probably a habit from his motocross days. He was walking slowly round and wandering across the bend digging in his heel to get an idea of the depth of shale. He stopped when he found the pair of us painting the fence and stood rubbing his eyes as if he was seeing things. I said "it's all right John, it's quick drying paint" and he replied with his east anglian accent "arr it bloody well wants to be" and wandered off towards the third bend to finish his track inspection.
I was also given the job of getting the Young Sweden team to autograph a programme for Peter Thorogood but I had problems making them understand that I wanted them to sign the programme. I had intended to get them to sign near their pictures but the best I could manage was to get them to sign anywhere at all and Peter was a bit annoyed that it was all so untidy but it looked pretty unlikely at one stage that I was going to get it signed at all. I was lucky enough to get my programme signed as well but they signed across the race results and just about anywhere there was a space!
Regards Tony


Rayleigh Reunion 2007

L-R Alan Jackson, Dingle Brown, Dennis Mannion, Laurie Etheridge, Geoff Maloney and Terry Stone and didn't I do well to avoid making any ageist remarks.
If you have any photos etc or memories of Rayleigh Speedway send me an email John

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Miscellaneous 6
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Reg Fearman 1
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Reg Fearman 3
Reg Fearman 4
Reg Fearman 5
Reg Fearman 6
Reg Fearman 7
Reg Fearman 8
Reg Fearman  Autobiography 2014
Eric Williams
Bob Andrews
Ivan Mauger 1
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Ivans 2010 Book
Dave Gifford Page
R Spencer Oliver Photos
Helen Jobson Photos
John Chaplin Photos
Ivan Stevenson Photos
John Hyam Page 1
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John Hyam Page 3
John Hyam Page 4
Tony Webb Photos
Jim Henry Page 1 1928
Jim Henry Page 2 1929
Jim Henry Page 3 1930
Jim Henry Page 4 1931
Jim Henry Page 5 1932
Jim Henry Page 6 1933-57
Graham Gleave Page
Argentine Tour 1929/30
Les Drury Page
Norman Jacobs Page 1
Bill Fletcher Photos
Peter Orpwood
Oval Track Racing
Pre Speedway
Cigarette Cards
World Championship
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